Bay Area Diary

Thursday – Berkeley, CA: Flew in to SFO and met my pal Jim in the afternoon, and we had barely an hour to whisk up the BART to the Downtown Berkeley station, and took the short hike up to Haas Pavilion. My first disappointment was finding that my favorite record store in the area had transmogrified into a bloody Starbucks.

My second disappointment was expecting a "refurbished" Haas and instead finding it more cavernous than ever. More seats, sure. But still all cement, still no room in the corridors. And it was a loooong hike up to Row Triple-Zed, where we sat with some Berkeley grads now living in Los Angeles who seemed overly curious what Seattle thought about the hiring of Pete Carroll.

I must admit that the Cal fans conjured up an impressive amount of noise in that old building. And they had a lot to be noisy about – their heroes played great. Within the first five minutes of the game Jim and I were already in full "why are we being so @#$% passive again on defense?" mode while watching Jerome Randall drill another uncontested three. It was painful to watch the Huskies toss up rather meek looking 1-3-1 zone in the second half – at least when compared to, say, Oregon State's. Not a lot of ball pressure, and a whole lot of ball-watching. Only when they slapped on a press with six minutes to go did Washington even begin to look like them selves. They whittled a 17-point lead to nine in just under three minutes but alas, way too little, way too late. Down 14 with two minutes to go, we decided to hightail it to catch the 8:27 BART back to South San Francisco, barely making it. So much for the warm and fuzzies from four straight home wins.

Friday – Half Moon Bay, Hoops, and the Harbor: To my complete surprise, I found myself on a playground court in Sunnyvale shooting hoops for an hour-and-a-half. My range seems limited now to about 17 feet, and it's truly a fact that except for maybe Michael Jordan, 55-year old bald men can't jump. At least I sure can't. Then it was on to the Wharf and one of Marv Harshman's favorite haunts, Scoma's on Pier 47. Alas, no Marv. However, the wine did take some of the sting out of my now-aching knees.

Saturday – Palo Alto, CA: A monumental revelation struck as we drove down University street towards Maples Pavilion - I discerned why the Stanford mascot is a Tree. Doh! It makes so much sense now. I thought "well, if we don't win tonight, at least this will make my whole trip worthwhile".

Unlike Haas Pavilion, the Cardinal really did a nice job with their Maples face lift. Like a boxing match, they shut the outer lights off during play, making for better court visuals. At tipoff, there might have been 400 or so students in their section. They just sort of sauntered in at all times during the game, finally filling about three-quarters of the bleachers midway through second half. And I'm not ashamed of it – I have always been a Stanford Band fan. Sure they're goofy and crass and irreverent and all of that. But I wager they didn't repeat ONE offering during the whole game, playing everything from Tower of Power to the Zombies to a rousing rendition of the William Tell Overture – the full finale – as the Cardinal hit the floor for the second half. I doff my cap to their musical acumen.

And then, the game. We saw maybe 100 Husky fans in Berkeley, but at least 500 in Palo Alto. And the purple-and-gold mood was decidedly different, resulting in a 180-degree turnaround from Thursday. Washington's defense met the ball at half-court, and defended the three-point line. Justin Holiday was in Landry Fields' jersey. MBA was shuttling from sideline to sideline, extending another set of arms into passing lanes. Rarely could any guard penetrate past Thomas or Overton. They weren't creating turnovers, but they were creating havoc. HUSKY havoc. Husky havoc that we see all the time at HOME.

And like the 180-degree turnaround from Thursday, we could tell from the first five minutes that the Washington road woes would end this night. Because for the first time all year away from home, they were playing the way they are always capable of playing. It didn't matter that they shot but 38 percent in the first half – they were dictating the terms. And though the Cardinal got close a couple of times, the Huskies kept to task, all the way to the end. It was mighty nice to see, and a fine way to end the road trip.

Sunday – Seattle, WA: Now, if I can somehow finagle my way to do a Pullman or Oregon diary ….


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